During a speech at the International IP Enforcement Summit, Dharmesh highlighted the significant progress that has been made to improve protection and enforcement of IP rights in the European Union and around the globe. He also identified three areas for greater collaboration between private and public sector organizations:
- More private sector information sharing
- Greater information sharing with customer agencies to shop counterfeiters at the borders
- Greater prioritization and resourcing for law enforcement to prosecute suspected criminals
Dharmesh’s speech to the Summit is below.
“Commissioner Breton, Ministers, Your Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen –
My name is Dharmesh Mehta, and I am the Vice President of Amazon’s Worldwide Selling Partner Services organization. I want to start by saying thank you, to the EUIPO and its Executive Director, Christian Archambeau, for inviting me to participate in this critical dialogue around ways to improve protection and enforcement of IP rights in the European Union and around the globe, and also for the opportunity to share our views on best practices and further actions needed to strengthen our collective fight against counterfeiters.
Twenty-eight years ago, Amazon set out to become Earth’s most customer-centric company. As part of that mission, we obsess over earning and maintaining trust, and ensuring that we provide a trustworthy shopping and selling experience for our customers and our selling partners.
As a part of that, we continue to make significant investments and enhancements to our brand protection efforts. In 2022, we invested more than $1.2 billion dollars and employed over 15,000 people – dedicated to protecting customers, brands, selling partners, and our store from counterfeit, fraud, and other forms of abuse.
This has been a journey over many years, and we have found great success in stopping counterfeits by focusing on three key areas.
First, implementing robust proactive controls. Selling in Amazon’s store opens a world of opportunity for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and we try to make it straightforward for entrepreneurs to be able to get started and get set up with a new selling account, but very difficult for bad actors to do so.
In addition to verification of key seller information, tax, banking, and other data, we continue to invest in advanced machine learning techniques and technology. This includes leveraging advances in neural networks, graph-based anomaly detection, multi-modal classification, generative AI and much more.
These innovations, coupled with our efforts to hold bad actors accountable, have been effective in deterring counterfeiters from even trying to create a new selling account. As a result, the number of bad actors that attempted to create a new selling account on Amazon has decreased from 6 million attempts in 2020, to 2.5 million attempts in 2021, to 800,000 attempts in 2022.
Second, we create powerful tools for rights owners to more effectively protect their brands by partnering with us.
We work with a large and ever-growing number of brands, and because they know their products best, we work together, so we can be even more effective in stopping counterfeiters.
Several years ago, we launched Amazon Brand Registry, which is a free service for brands regardless of whether they sell in our store. We leverage data that brands provide us within Brand Registry, and using that, Amazon has developed and continued to innovate upon automated protections that work across product catalogs to further reduce and prevent infringement of those brands. And as a result, in 2022, while we’ve continued to grow the number of products in our store and continued to grow the number of brands in Amazon’s Brand Registry, we also received 35% fewer valid notices of infringement from rights owners.
We are also proud of programs we created like our IP Accelerator program. For small businesses that are just getting started and are looking for help in obtaining and protecting their intellectual property, the IP Accelerator program connects these businesses with a vetted network of trusted IP law firms in 39 different countries and 13 different languages, offering high-quality, trusted trademark registration services at pre-negotiated competitive rates for these small businesses. More than 16,000 small and medium sized businesses have already used IP Accelerator to obtain trademarks.
Third, we focus on holding counterfeiters accountable. We continue to work with brands and law enforcement to hold more counterfeiters accountable, to deter these criminals from abusing our store, and to stop them from selling counterfeits anywhere.
Our efforts to identify and help dismantle counterfeit organizations are working and they’re making a positive impact. In 2022, Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit, or CCU, sued or referred for criminal investigation over 1,300 counterfeiters globally. We also work to find the factories and the warehouses where these goods are created or stored, and to get them shut down as well. And in 2022, we identified, seized, and appropriately disposed of over 6 million counterfeits – preventing them from being resold anywhere in the supply chain.
For a few examples, in February, we partnered with Brother to file our first joint civil lawsuit in Europe against eighteen members of a criminal ring that attempted to deceive customers by selling fake toner cartridges. We have also shared information with several Public Security Bureaus in China that helped local law enforcement raid counterfeiting operations across multiple Chinese provinces, seizing hundreds of thousands of counterfeits and dismantling multiple counterfeiting networks.
But we don’t do this on our own. In the EU, we regularly collaborate with Europol, with Guardia Civil in Spain, with Guardia Di Finanza in Italy, and Germany’s regional police services, as well as French, and Belgian, and German and Czech Customs agencies. And just a few weeks ago, Amazon worked with the City of London’s PIPCU to identify and stop a large criminal operation attempting to distribute thousands of counterfeit toothbrush heads.
So those three pillars, proactive controls, powerful tools for rights owners, and holding bad actors accountable have been critical to our strategy. But as you’ve heard earlier today, counterfeiting remains a global concern for all of us. And so we recognize that while we have made significant progress, there is still a lot more work to do and we also know that we can be far more effective by working together across the private and public sector. And so we see three specific areas that we want to continue to collaborate and partner to stop counterfeiters across the industry.
First, we believe that there should be more private sector information sharing. As we laid out in our 2021 blueprint for private and public sector partnership to stop counterfeiters, we think it’s critical that the entire retail industry share information about confirmed counterfeiters to help stop these criminals across the supply chain and to do so earlier.
So two months ago, we went public with our membership in the Anti-Counterfeiting Exchange (or ACX), which is an industry collaboration that started in the United States, and it’s designed to make it more difficult for counterfeiters to move among different stores, and safer for consumers to shop anywhere that they choose.
ACX allows participating stores to share information about confirmed counterfeiters who attempted to sell counterfeits in their store, and then enables other participants to receive this information to identify if those counterfeiters are attempting to operate in their stores and as a result, stop them more quickly than they would have without this collaborative data sharing.
Through ACX, Amazon has already detected hundreds of matching accounts where the same counterfeiter was trying to create selling accounts on Amazon and at least one other retail industry player. And so we’re excited that by leading the way in creating this industry-wide solution to share information about known counterfeiters, we’ve helped improve our collective ability to fight counterfeit crime.
We are also eager to see the same or similar efforts across the globe, so we can all use this type of information in our ongoing efforts to detect and address counterfeiting, and we look forward to leveraging jurisdiction and region-specific best practices here in the EU, such as those laid out in the upcoming IP Toolbox against Counterfeiting and the framework of the EU Memorandum of Understanding, to enable conversations and drive European industry-wide data sharing on counterfeiters.
Second, we want to see greater information sharing to stop counterfeits at the borders. We continue to expand our work with customs agencies around the world to mutually exchange information on counterfeit activity. We can aid customs agencies in their detection, search, and seizure efforts, and strengthen law enforcement’s ability to dismantle criminal networks behind these illicit goods – and so that customs agencies can work with us to not only stop the shipments that they seized, but to also help freeze other assets and inventory that we may have or know about from those counterfeiters.
We have launched efforts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We’ve launched efforts with Japan Customs. All of these are already producing positive results, and we are in conversations with multiple customs authorities on reciprocal data sharing programs to help protect consumers, reduce fraud, and help us all be more efficient and effective.
Together we can stop more counterfeits from crossing borders and entering domestic supply chains, and we look forward to establishing similar partnerships here in the EU.
Third, we believe we need greater prioritization and resourcing for law enforcement to prosecute counterfeiters. Amazon acknowledges and respects the hard work of law enforcement and prosecutors in fighting counterfeiters around the world. We are proud of our partnerships with the agencies here in the EU that are pursuing these criminals, and we will continue to share in-depth criminal referrals.
But we recognize that there are real constraints that our partners face in terms of resourcing that are sometimes limiting their impact. So this past year, we were very encouraged by the EU’s leadership in prioritizing IP crime in the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats framework. We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers to ensure law enforcement has the resources that they need.
So in closing, let me first say – we are proud of the progress we have been making in preventing counterfeits in our store. This has required significant resources and innovation, but it would not be possible without the amazing partnerships that we have been able to build with people like all of you in the room – with rights owners, with government agencies, law enforcement, IP organizations, and many others. Second, not only have we had great impact together, but we have been able to establish best practices that can be applied across the retail industry and across the world for how the private and public sector can work together to stop counterfeit. And finally, while we believe we have made a great deal of progress, we also believe that the industry still has a long way to go. And you have our continued commitment to invest and innovate as well as be a great partner to all of you as we will not rest until we help drive counterfeits to zero.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak today and to continue to be a part of this critical conversation and partnership.”